I said I wasn’t going to address this topic since it’s been all over the news, radio, and talk shows! I didn’t want to join them, but here I sit typing these words on my laptop. Why? Because in the mist of all of this that has come to light recently, especially with talk of Matt Lauer, someone pointed the question directly at me,
“Shirley, have you ever been sexually harassed at work?”
I paused for a moment because I honestly just wanted to forget it ever happened. I didn’t want to “re-live” it, yet I didn’t want to blatantly lie to this person either. I took a deep breath before I continued answering,
“Yes, I have.”
They turned all the way around as if they were completely shocked and just stared at me as they asked,
The surprised look on their face was strictly because they knew my former employer and who was “in charge” at that facility. He asked if I ever reported the sexual harassment, but I told him that another situation was brought to the executive director’s attention, yet nothing was done! Therefore, I knew nothing would be done about that situation either. I worked within the “good ole boy” system, and the two individuals that crossed the line at work had been employed there for years longer than I at that point. I knew those individuals were tighter with those in charge and the higher-ups would side with them. So, instead of putting in a formal sexual harassment complaint against them both, I decided to spare myself the agony of describing the unwelcome advances and encounters. I left that job that threatened to steal my sanity with all I had to endure, and it was my hope to leave that nightmare behind.
My husband was not fully aware of what took place behind those walls in small offices. The desks were positioned in such a way that you were trapped once someone came into your office, blocking the only entrance and exit.
It started with uninvited comments, at first. Then, knowing they were at an advantage when you were trapped behind that desk, they would get extremely too close for comfort. After invading my personal space, they decided to push their luck even more with the uninvited hugs. To say it was uncomfortable and provoked extreme anxiety within me is an understatement! I felt like I was always on edge while at work, and it was always on my mind after hours on how to avoid being alone in my office with them behind closed doors! The best thing I ever did was leave that job!
I did not publicly post #MeToo on my personal social media page because I didn’t want to be known as “that” person. I didn’t want people to question why I didn’t report it back then, as it’s been five years ago now. I also didn’t want to be on trial for what I may have done, in some people’s minds, to invite the advances. There is a lot of victim blaming and shaming that goes on, which makes the person feel 100 times worse than they already do! First of all, no one should ever have to endure any type of bullying or sexual harassment PERIOD, but especially in the work place! Secondly, it isn’t the victim’s fault that someone tried to take advantage! I wasn’t wearing inappropriate cleavage showing clothing or dresses that hardly covered leaving nothing to the imagination. Instead, I was very conservative with my clothing, and I was not someone who flirted. I was actually the opposite and was known as “Miss Goody Two Shoes.”
My point in sharing this today is to let you know that I’ve been there. I did not invite the advances, nor did I enjoy them at all. When I saw what management allowed or turned a blind eye to, I knew I had to get out of that toxic and unhealthy work environment! It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to encourage it. And I got OUT before it went from sexual harassment to sexual assault!
If you have been affected by someone doing something against your wishes, I want you to know that you are not alone! It is not your fault! And you will find nothing but compassion here!